Hurdler Alicia Barrett looking to brighter future with coach Toni Minichiello

LOOKING FORWARD: Sheffield student Alicia Barrett enjoyed a memorable year in 2017 competing at Under-20 level.

After finishing 2016 firmly on top of the British junior rankings along with a strong performance in the World Under-20 final, 2017 saw Sheffield-based sprint hurdler Alicia Barrett with another year left to leave her final mark on the junior level.

And she did it in some style, breaking two British Under-20, records both indoors and outdoors, as well as bagging some major national titles which included the biggest of them all at the British Outdoor Championships in Birmingham.

Coach Toni Minichiello, left, with Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Now before even clearing a single hurdle this season, the British champion has a trip to the Commonwealth Games to look forward to following a belated selection for the England Team.

But despite all her success last season, the race that now holds the most focus for Barrett is her heat at the IAAF World Championships which, despite the special occasion, saw her finish last with one of her lowest times of the season.

“(The World Championships) was a bit overwhelming,” said Barrett. “I didn’t perform very well at all, but at the same time I learnt so much from it about how to be in the right frame of mind when you go into big competitions and how to deal with it.

“In the juniors you don’t let people beat you because you know where you stand in the ranks, but when I got to seniors I felt a bit lost and like I wasn’t good enough to be there. So you almost let them go past you because you’re not in that same frame of mind, which is definitely something I need to change this season.”

You kind of know what to expect (from Toni’s sessions) but at the same time he’ll change it up to leave you thinking ‘oh, I wasn’t expecting that’

Sheffield-based sprint hurdler, Alicia Barrett

One factor that could prove vital for Barrett is the vast experience of current coach Toni Minichiello who, after coaching Sheffield Heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill to Olympic and World titles, knows just what it takes to shine on the International stage.

The 19-year-old began working with Minichiello in late 2016 while also studying History at Sheffield Hallam University, which along with the intense level of training, proves a highly challenging task.

“It’s quite hard,” said Barrett, “You can spend so long at EIS (arena) and then you get home and just want to go to sleep rather than read 20 pages on Marxism, but I do really enjoy it.

“You kind of know what to expect (from Toni’s sessions) but at the same time he’ll change it up to leave you thinking ‘oh, I wasn’t expecting that’ which makes you try and get that one per cent more by doing a bit of everything and increasing the load slightly.

“He’s a lot more optimistic than me, but he’s also really realistic and knows what you can and can’t do while having high aspirations for you. But I think the main thing is that as long as you turn up and try your hardest then he appreciates that.”

With the indoor season fully underway as well as the small matter of March’s World Championships in Birmingham, the Under-20 record holder will give her race fitness an early test when she heads to the Northern Championships in Sheffield on Saturday, after dominating the event’s junior level last season.

This particular season does remain a slight enigma however, with an unusual tournament schedule placing the University and National Championships on the same day, leaving many athletes, including Barrett, unsure of which one to go for.

Despite this, Barrett’s long-term targets remain all-but certain to stay the same, as she prepares for what could be a vital period in her promising athletics career.

“The next two years is really about properly transitioning into the senior ranks,” said Barrett, “It would be really nice to also go to the European Championships (August) but you’ve got to run the times before you get there really, so I think biggest thing for me is running my own race and not getting distracted by others and when that happens hopefully the times will improve as well.”

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